Arena village board fills vacant seat, finalizes EMS contract

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

The village of Arena met for its regular board meeting Jan. 5, where the board appointed a former board member to fill a newly vacant seat and continued discussions for funding solutions for the joint Fire and EMS program. 

The board voted to appoint former Board Member Charles Burch to fill the vacant board seat left by William Hanson, who resigned last month. Burch’s term would end in April of this year. 

Trustee Paul Pustina questioned if there were other applicants for the appointment. Village President Kate Reimann acknowledged there was another candidate, who did not fill out paperwork to be on the April ballot prior to the deadline. 

The other interested party was Matthew Schroder, who served as Village President prior to Reimann.  

Reimann said she offered Schroder an opportunity to join the plan commission, but Schroder declined. 

“I asked him if he would like to join the plan commission, it’s kind of a step off the board. He did not want to do that,” said Reimann. 

Burch was a former member of the board, but failed to seek re-election on the official ballot in April 2020, so he was named as a write-in candidate on the ballot. Burch has also submitted paperwork to seek election in the upcoming 2021 April election. 

“He’s submitted paperwork to get on the ballot, so I am appointing him,” said Reimann. It’s not clear under what authority Reimann was appointing Burch, as statute states that the board as a whole makes appointments to fill vacancies.

Pustina raised concerns over both candidates not being equally considered for appointment, and Reimann reiterated that she chose to appoint Burch because he filed paperwork for reelection this year, while the other candidate failed to do so. 

The motion to appoint Burch was passed unanimously. 

Burch’s appointed term will end in April of this year.

The board also discussed the agreement they have with the township of Arena to fund the joint Fire and EMS program for both the village and township. 

Due to a failed referendum on the November ballot, the village is unable to fund its 42% of the shared funding for the services. After making 2021 budget cuts, the board approved in November to provide 27% of the portion it is responsible for. 

According to discussion at the meeting, the Fire Board planned to cut the staff budget to cover the remaining funding. The original agreement budgeted for three, full time EMTs, and the proposed change would allow funding for two full time EMTs. 

Reimann said the Fire Board indicated the Fire and EMS program are able to function with two EMTs, as they are currently. 

The village board voted to eliminate the third full time position, and provide approximately $35,000 to fund its 27% portion for one year. The agreement only applies to this year, and will expire Dec. 31, 2021 when it will be revisited on a yearly basis. 

Other action or discussion at the meeting included: 

—Approving a 2021 contract with the Iowa County Humane Society, and appointing police chief Nick Stroik as the municipal representative for the humane society. 

—Appointing trustee Tami Erspamer to the Plan Commission as a village trustee representative. 

—Appointing Charles Burch to the Public Works Committee. 

—Approving a schedule change for Public Works Superintendent Mike Schmidt to accommodate accrued vacation.